A helping hand – volunteering in London.

Introducing Rachel Costa . . . and the Big Fish Writing Project.

Rachel Costa is a journalist from Brazil who has been living in the UK for 6 and half months. She’s been working really hard to get her English to the next level and she’s making great progress. She comes across as confident and natural and has an ever-growing vocabulary of  phrasal verbs, idiomatic language and expressive adjectives that aren’t ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘nice’. When Rachel makes a mistake and I correct her, she has the fantastic ability to actually remember the correction the next time she is speaking. 

As a journalist Rachel is obviously keen to improve her writing skills in English and recently she had a brainwave; She came up with the fantastic idea of contributing to the Big Fish English blog and in return I will correct and edit her work. 

Here is her first article about volunteering:

Get involved and kill two birds with one stone.

If you have recently moved to UK you have probably noticed that British people love charity projects. It’s estimated that more than half of the population is involved in some kind of charity action. A great deal of fundraising and increased awareness comes from the wearing of brooches, ribbons and wristbands – wearing a poppy in November is something I am sure you haven’t missed. Then there is donating money to overseas projects but this charity spirit can be found in an alternative way: volunteering.

And volunteering (believe me!) really can be an amazing chance for guys like us that have just arrived in UK and are struggling to reach fluency in English. I personally decided to try it and I can assure you that yes, that it is a great “tactic”. Why? Simple, because you can simultaneously:

  • Help with something and actually make a difference where people are in need.
  • Meet 'real' native English speakers and chat with them about other subjects, not just about 'your name/profession/where are you from' (and you know that it is one of the most difficult things in your first months in the UK)
  • Test your abilities and stretch yourself to do something new or to learn something unexpected (that is exactly what I've done in my current volunteer position)
  • Improve your CV (If you are looking for a job in the UK a volunteering experience will certainly help you)

Ok, I’m convinced. Let’s get going.

So if you are convinced that it can work for you too (and I am sure it can), you can find the right place to volunteer in one of the following links:

The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network: If you like the idea but would like to know a bit more about the market, the organizations and all kinds of news related with volunteering that is a good website to get familiar with this area. More than information, The Guardian keeps a list (like a job search list) where you can look for placements in the voluntary sector.

To find out more access: http://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network

Do-it: The slogan of this network is “volunteering made easy” and they really do this. They have lots of opportunities all over the UK  which helps those that don’t live in London to find a project near their home. You can search for your interests and for your postcode, a great way to be sure that you will find something that really fits your needs.

To know more access: http://www.do-it.org.uk

Museums: Most of the museums have volunteering placements and areas in their websites where they announce those opportunities. Some examples are the Natural History Museum,the Victoria and Albert, the British Museum or the Tate Gallery. However, for obvious reasons there are lots of candidates to these roles so, if you are looking for something more immediate, that is not the best option.

By yourself: If you like the projects developed by a particular organization, why not be proactive and ring or send an email asking them if they need someone? The worse thing that can happen is that you receive a “No, we don’t” as answer, but English people are so polite that you will not even notice that they rejected you. This is the method I used to find the project where I am currently volunteering for, so don’t be afraid of trying it!

PS: If you are broke and can’t afford the tube tickets to reach the place, don’t worry about that. Usually, your travel expenses will be refunded by the organization where you are a volunteer. Anyway, you can check this before accept the vacancy.


If you too would like to practice your writing skills and you would also like to share your experiences of learning English and living in the UK I would love to hear from you.